Infante seeks immediate release from prison, return of money
By Ed Runyan
Three weeks into his 10-year prison sentence for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity during his 24 years as Niles mayor and 21 other offenses, Ralph Infante and his attorney are asking for Infante to be sent home.
Atty. John Juhasz filed a motion Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court asking Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove for a stay of execution of Infante’s sentence pending appeal of his convictions and sentence.
The motion says there are “substantial grounds for appeal,” including the engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity conviction “cannot stand because the verdict form submitted to the jury was deficient in that it failed to set forth the degree of felony.”
The engaging conviction is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the most serious of Infante’s 22 convictions.
The filing cites a 2013 Ohio Supreme Court decision that reduced a defendant’s conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor because the verdict form contained neither the degree of the offense or language explaining the elements of the offense that elevated it from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The Juhasz filing does not say whether the verdict form provided the language that elevated the offense to a felony.
The next most serious convictions were 13 counts of tampering with records, which each carry a penalty of up to three years in prison.
The filing says there are also other grounds for appeal, such as an “invalid search warrant, insufficiency of evidence, a clear due-process violation and lack of uniformity in verdicts.”
The appeal notes Juhasz will not be filing Infante’s appeal, but it is his responsibility to file any requests for a stay of execution with the judge who presided over the trial.
The filing says Infante is “neither a threat to public safety nor a flight risk,” and “the crimes for which he was convicted are all not violent offenses.”
It adds that “there is virtually no likelihood that [Infante] would engage in any illegal criminal activity if released.” His convictions were related to his time as mayor and as operator of the ITAM No. 39 bar in McKinley Heights.
So far, special prosecutors in the case from the Ohio attorney general’s office have not replied to the motion, nor has Judge Cosgrove, according to court records.
Infante, 62, was sentenced May 11 after a two-week trial. Infante also was found guilty of one count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract, two counts of theft in office, four counts of gambling and one of falsification.
In a separate filing, Juhasz asked Judge Cosgrove to return $12,388 seized by investigators from Infante’s home on North Rhodes Avenue in Niles on Feb. 1, 2016.
The filing says the funds must be returned because the instructions and verdict forms the jury received failed to include language saying Infante had to forfeit the money.